The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Posts Tagged ‘NOTES ON HOSEA’

My Notes on Hosea 8:4-7, 11-13

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 4, 2014

Immediate Background: Chapter 8 opens with the prophet calling for the sounding of the war horn, for the destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel is quickly approaching. The nation is like carrion, being circled by birds of prey because of covenant infidelity and transgressions of the Law (Hos 8:1).  They cry out to the God they have rejected as if they still know Him, but they have rejected that which is good for them and will be beset by enemies (Hos 8:2-3).

Read Hosea 8:4. God Himself had willed the political division of the 12 Tribes of Israel into two different kingdoms because of the sins of Solomon (1 Kings 11:1-43). Thus there formed in the northern part of the Holy Land a new monarchical entity consisting of 10 tribes which retained the name Israel; while in the south the remaining two tribes (Judah and Benjamin)–along with elements from other tribes–continued to be ruled over by the line of David and became known as the Kingdom of Judah (after the tribe to which David had belonged) .  For all of this one can consult 1 Kings 12:1-25.

The first king of the new northern kingdom, Jeroboam, son of Nebat (Jeroboam I), soon instituted a religious division against the south  because he feared that since his subjects still had to go to the temple in Jerusalem–political capital of Judah–they might want to reunite with the line of David, forcing him from power (1 Kings 12:26-32). This event became known as “the sin of Jeroboam” and every king in the north who came after Jeroboam I maintained it, ultimately leading to the downfall of the kingdom (2 Kings 17:21-23).

The final (approximately) 25 years of the northern kingdom during which Hosea preached was marked by a string of very worthless kings. After the death of Jeroboam, son of Joash (called Jeroboam II) who was reigning when Hosea was called to ministry (Hos 1:1), six kings came and went in fairly rapid succession. Four of these were assassinated, the other two were removed from power by the Assyrians. None of these kings ruled by divine warrant and thus they were kings not made by God, princes set up without his knowledge. They were the result of human political power-plays (Hos 7:3-7). In a sense, one could call these kings idols made by human hands; for both these kings and the calf altar of Jeroboam were made by human hands (see verse 5 below)

All of this havoc and chaos can be attributed to the idols of gold and silver which permeate the northern kingdom, but especially of the calf altars Jeroboam I had erected (see verse 5 below, and 1 Kings 12:26-32).

Read Hosea 8:5. God’s anger has been kindled  against the calf altar since it construction by order of King Jeroboam I (1 Kings 13:1-3), but the people have not allowed God’s punishing judgments to purify them, bringing them to repentance. For God’s punishment is intended to purify and lead to repentance (Deut 30:1-10; Hos 2:10-25; Amos 4:6-11; Isa 1:18-31; 2:4-6).

Read Hosea 8:6. The verse expresses stock prophetic polemic against idols; man cannot make gods, let alone the One God. The contrary is vanity (see next verse).

Read Hosea 8:7. It seems to me that this verse can be seen as transitional, and as applying both to the vanity of idolatry/false worship (Hos 7:13-16) and the vanity of foreign political alliances (Hos 7:8-12). Indeed, in Hosea their is a very close connection between the two. Having just denounced the idolatry in the kingdom in the preceding verses, the prophet now turns to denounce the kingdom’s foreign alliances (Hos 8:9-10), then returning again to denounce strange worship (Hose 8:11-13).

This verse consists of two proverbs, the second of which has a threat attached to it. The point of the first is this: What one does now has consequences in the future: one reaps what one sows. In the bible wind is often associated with vanity and judgment (Eccl 1:14; Prov 11:29; Job 7:7; 21:18 Ps 1:4; 35:5). To sow these thing in order to reap more is foolish.

The point of the second is this: That which begins with nothing, ends with nothing. Protestant scholar James Luther Mays notes that this verse employs a rhyme, a rarity in Hebrew; he translates as follows (Hebrew words in parenthesis):  “Grain without growth (semah) yields no meal (qemah).” As the threat makes clear, even if the stalk of grain which produced no ear could in fact yield grain, aliens would devour it. This reference to aliens should recall Hos 8:1-3 and its reference to impending doom by enemies.

Read Hosea 8:11.  The multiplicity of altars and what took place on and before them is a sin which increases sinning. Here there is probably a dig against both the calf altars erected by Jeroboam I (1 Kings 12:28-30) in violation of the law of one sanctuary (Deut 12:1-14), and the Baal worship that was practiced in the groves and high places (Hos 4:12-19).

Read Hosea 8:12. So far gone are the people that even if God were to multiply his statutes as the people have multiplied their altars they would remain alien to the people who have themselves become alien to God (Hos 5:7).

Read Hosea 8:13. The people want their sacrifices rather than steadfast love, mercy, and faithfulness, obedience and true devotion (Hos 6:4-6).

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Background on Hosea 8:4-7, 11-13

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 7, 2012


Note 1: Hosea 8:4-7, 11-13 is the first reading for Tuesday of the 14th Week in Ordinary Time. This post is an attempt to give a summary of the broader structure of Hosea as I understand it. A brief suggested reading list is appended at the end of the post. 

Note 2: The verse numbering in this post follows that of the RSV which, on occasion, differs from that found in the NAB and other bibles. Links are to the RSV. Clicking on the link will open a new window which will allow you to view the scripture reference in several different translations. 

Note 3: It is important to remember that after the death of Solomon-and as punishment for his sins-the Kingdom of David split in two (see 1 Kings 11:1-12:32). Ten tribes in the north of the Holy Land formed a new kingdom which retained the name of “Israel,” and it is commonly referred to by modern scholars as “the Northern Kingdom.” Two tribes remained under the davidic monarchs and become know as “Judah” (Juda), or as “the Southern Kingdom” by modern scholars. For the history of this era one can profitably consult Section 6 of John Bright’s A HISTORY OF ISRAEL; the section is entitled The Independent Kingdoms of Israel and Judah: From the Death of Solomon to the Mid-Eighth Century. For dated bu still useful background on the prophet and his book you can consult the Catholic Encyclopedia article “Osee.” “Osee is the Greek spelling of Hosea. 


Israel has been committing “harlotry” against her husband, God, but he is intent on having her back. This is the basic message of Hosea 1-3. Through the prophet the people are summoned to here God’s complaint against them (Hosea 4:1-3). The complaint includes the fact that priests have been leading the people astray (Hosea 4:4-14), and they are exhorted to give up the idolatrous sites at Gilgal and Bethel (Hosea 4:15-19). Three groups of people are then called upon to “hear” what the Lord has to say (Hosea 5:1-7); they are: 1. the priests; 2. the House of Israel; 3. the house of the king. They have become their own snare, their own net, their own pit in which they have trapped themselves (Hosea 5:1-2). Their Whoring, deeds and pride hinder at best, and make impossible at worst, any relationship with God (Hosea 5:3). They no longer even know God, but he knows them and their doings (Hosea 5:3-4). Their pride witnesses against them, and their guilt will be their downfall (Hosea 5:5). They still seek with sacrifices this God they no longer know, unaware that he has drawn away from them (Hosea 5:6). By whoring against the Lord with whom they had covenanted, the leaders have raised up illegitimate children.

Israel (and Judah too) have failed to trust in God and  have turned to political alliances instead (Hosea 5:8-14). The political savvy of the nation’s leaders, and the military clout of foreign empires, have replaced trust and confidence in God. What the people do not understand is that their troubles (i.e., hostile enemies, political upheavals) are the result of the covenant infidelities (see Deut 28:25; Deut 28:49-57). And what they especially do not understand is that these troubles are their God’s doing as punishment (Hosea 5:12; Hosea 5:14).

As already indicated, the people do not really know God (Hosea 5:4), even though they seek for him with sacrifice (Hosea 5:6). It is no surprise then that the beautiful prayer of repentance attributed to them (Hosea 6:1-3) is without meaning (Hosea 6:4-6). True devotion and knowledge of God are better than sacrifice (Hosea 6:6).

This lack of knowledge and the false repentance are at the heart of what troubles the kingdom. Protestant scholar, James Luther Mays, entitles Hosea 6:7-7:2 “A Geography of Treachery.” The places named in this passage were often associated with treachery, deceit, and especially, idolatry. Things have gotten so bad that even when God attempts to heal his people they commit more sins (Hosea 7:1). Their lack of knowledge leads to the failure to consider that God remembers their evil deeds: Now their deeds encompass them, they are before my face (Hosea 7:2 RSV).

The politics of Israel are a politics of sin (Hosea 7:3-7). The king and the princes of the kingdom are wicked and this suits the people fine. Intrigue is hidden behind joy and drunkenness and leads to assassination. In Hosea’s day six kings rose and fell, four by assassination (Zechariah, Shallum, Pekahiah, Pekah), the last king (Hoshea) was deposed and arrested by the Assyrians after intriguing against them. The people are compared to a heated oven left unattended and fueled by wine (Hosea 7:4-5); for like an oven their hearts burn with intrigue; all night their anger smolders; in the morning it blazes like a flaming fire (Hosea 7:6). In the heat of their anger they consume their kings; none think of calling upon the Lord (Hosea 7:7).

Ephraim (another name of the northern kingdom) mingles with pagan peoples. A cake (a flat loaf of bread) when left unturned in a smoldering oven slowly burns (Hosea 7:8), and this is seen as a  fitting image of the nation, for the pagan peoples it is relying on are slowly devouring them, slowly the kingdom is aging like a man whose hair gradually turns gray (Hosea 7:9).

A silly dove which can’t make up its mind which way to fly, bird-brained Ephraim goes cooing after both Egypt and Assyria. Some of the kings in the north (and the people who supported them) depended on Egypt to aid them against Assyria, others sought to ingratiate themselves with Assyria in order to maintain power (Hosea 7:11). All merit the divine punishment for not relying on God, their protector (Hosea 7:15), an act of rebellion (Hosea 7:12-13). Rather than cry to God from the heart they practice pagan mourning rituals, gashing themselves (Hosea 7:14; 1 Kings 18:28; and see Lev 19:28, Deut 14:1), as if their God was just one of the Baals’ (Hosea 7:16).

The situation is desperate, a bird of prey hovers over the silly dove, Ephraim, a dying kingdom because it has broken Covenant with the Lord (Hosea 8:1). They call to God claiming to know him, but their deeds speak the real truth, and pursuit by enemies is to be their recompense (Hosea 8:2-3; see Deut 28:25).

By intrigue, power politics, deceit and murder kings and princes have been made and broken, this has not been the Lord’s doing. It was a king’s duty to protect the integrity of worship, but the people who made kings for themselves have also made idol. (Hosea 8:4). The premier idol in the land, the bull calf at Samaria, God rejects, and his anger burns against its devotees: How long will it be till they are pure (Hosea 8:5 RSV). It is the work of an artisan and it shall come to naught (Hosea 8:6). He who sows wind (idols, see Isa 41:29) reaps the whirlwind, God’s wrath (Hosea 8:7). Because they relied on the Baals to give them grain God will keep it from them (Hosea 8:7, and see Hosea 2:8-9).  And what grain is produced will be consumed by strangers, one of the covenant curses (Hosea 8:7, and see Deut 28:33-34).

The kingdom itself is being devoured by the alien lovers it has sought help from (Hosea 8:8-10). Their altars serve their sins (Hosea 8:11), for foreign lovers and foreign alliances both lead to idolatry (for lovers, see Exodus 34:16; 1 Kings 11:1-2. For alliances see 2 Kings 16:7-18).

The law was given to God’s people for wisdom, to make of them a great nation (Deut 4:6-8), but in Hosea’s day, if that law were increased ten-thousand times, the people would be unable to comprehend it (Hosea 8:12). They love sacrifice in which the Lord has no delight, and they have forgotten the Lord who made them. But God will not forget their iniquity, or leave them unpunished. Having rejected their maker they have made palaces and fortresses for themselves, these shall be destroyed (Hosea 8:13-14).

A summary cannot possibly do justice the the content of Hosea 1-8, for this reason I have appended a few suggestions for study. 


Jerome Biblical Commentary. Succinct commentaries on all the books of the bible, plus essays on a wide range of related subjects. The work has engendered controversy, and the updated version even more so.

New Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture. Like the previous commentary this one offers succinct commentaries on all the books of the bible, plus essays on related subjects. an extensive revision of an older work, it has caused much less controversy.

Amos, Hosea, Micah. Old Testament Message, Volume 7. By Father Bruce Vawter.

The Twelve Prophets: Berit Olam Series. By Marvin A. Sweeney. I believe the author is Jewish. The series employed authors from a variety of theological traditions. I cannot recommend all the books in the series. This is the first of two volumes on the Twelve Prophets.

The Minor Prophets: Navarre Bible Commentary Series. A good place to begin. This series was the brain child of Saint Jose Marie Escriva and was compiled by the faculty of the University of Navarre.

Hosea: Anchor Yale Bible Commentary. By Francis I. Andersen and David Noel Freedman. Non-Catholic authors. The series employed authors from a wide variety of theological backgrounds, including a number of well known Catholic scholars. This work is lengthy and somewhat technical.

Grace Abounding: A Commentary on the Book of Hosea: International Theological Commentary Series. Non-Catholic author. The series did employ a few Catholic scholars.

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My Notes on Hosea 2:16-23

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 7, 2012

Introduction and Outline:
Note: Unless otherwise noted I will be using my own translation of Hosea. This translation should in no way be considered authoritative. It is done by me as a personal exercise. For this reason I also provide links to the RSV. Please also note that some translations of Hosea employ different chapter and verse divisions. I’ll be following the RSV numbering.

My last post on Hosea looked at 1:2-2:1 as a structural unit. Here it should be noted that there are very good reasons for not connecting 2:1 with the verses which precede it, but, rather, with those that follow. For this reason I will look again at 2:1, now in the context of 2:1-3:5. First, however, let me try to outline the passage.

2:1-2 A call to the children to plead (contend) with their mother.

2:3-4 Purpose of the plea.

1. So their mother can avoid punishment (vs 3)

2. So the children can avoid punishment (vs 4).

2:5 Reason for the plea being needed

2:6-23 Consequences if the plea is not heeded

1. She will be blocked from pursuing the Baals (Vss 6-8)

2. The blessings she thought were from the Baals will be removed (Vss 9-13)

Ultimate consequence and purpose of the previous 2 consequences-reunion with God (Vss 14-23)

1. God will seduce her (vss 14-15)

2. She will respond and be blessed (vss 16-20)

3. God’s relation to the children will be restored (vss 21-23)

3:1-5 Explains the purpose of Hosea’s marriage and its troubles. They symbolize God’s relation with Israel

(Note: As you read through the first three chapters of Hosea, it is important to keep in mind that both the mother and the children are figures which symbolize-each in its own way-the people of the Northern Kingdom of Israel; or, perhaps, the mother is meant to symbolize the priestly and political authorities, while the children symbolize the average Israelite).


She will respond and be blessed

2:16 It will come to pass on that day, says the Lord, you will call me “my husband,” and no longer will you call me “my Baal”. 2:17 And I will cause to turn aside the name of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be brought to mind no more. 2:18 For them I will make a covenant on that day with the wild beasts, the birds in the heavens, and the crawling things on the ground; I will remove the bow and the sword and the ones who do battle from the land; I will make you lie down in security. 2:19 And I will betroth you to myself for the ages; I will betroth you to myself in righteousness, and in justice, in love and in mercy. 2:20 I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you shall know the Lord.

The act of love on the part of God narrated in vss 14-15 will, it is hoped cause a reversal in Israel’s attitude towards the Lord.

you will call me “my husband,” and no longer will you call me “my Baal”- Their confusion about where their blessings and gifts come from will be ended. By attributing the gifts to the Baals who do not exist, they were in effect treating God as a Baal rather than a husband. The names and memories of the Baals will be brought to an end when God when God renews the covenant with them (vss 17-18). The land will not be given over to scavenging beasts, one of the covenant curses (vs 18). Warfare, one of the covenant curses, will also be abolished, thus the people will lie down in security (vs 18). They will come to know God as the source of their blessings (vs 20).

God’s relation with the children will be restored.

2:21 It will come to pass on that day that I will answer, says the Lord, I will answer the heavens, and the heavens shall answer the earth; 2:22 and the earth shall answer the grain the wine and the oil, and they shall answer Jezreel; 2:23 I will sow him for myself in the land, and I will pity Lo Ruhamah, and to Lo Ammi I will say, “my people you are,” and he shall answer “my God you are.”

I will answer- is a phrase often found in legal contexts denoting testimony. The heavens and the earth had been called upon by Moses several times in Deuteronomy as a witness to what will happen if Israel was unfaithful. God is testifying to the fact that he is willing to accept the illegitimate children of Israel (made such by the nations harlotries) as his own. Towards this end he answers (testifies) to the heavens he had shut up as part of the covenant curses (see 2:5). In response to this testimony the heavens will answer to the earth (by giving rain); which will in turn answer to the produce of the land: the grain, the wine and the oil, which will be an answer to Jezreel, who had called upon his illegitimate siblings to plead with there mother to end her unfaithfulness (vs 2). God’s love and Israel’s repentance has thus set in motion a renewal of the covenant blessings. Jezreeel (meaning “God sows” or “God plants”) will be sown (planted) in the land, apparently signifying the end of the threat of exile from the land, the culmination of the covenant curses in Deuteronomy 28. The reason for the Illegitimate children’s pleading in thus being portrayed as successful.

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My Notes on Hosea 5:15-6:7

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 15, 2012

In a previous post I noted that God, not Assyria, was the real source of the punishment the kingdoms of Israel and Judah had experienced, and would continue to experience. The purpose of this punishment is made clear in the verse which opens the text we are looking at today.

Hosea 5:15.  In verse 14 God had compared himself to a lion in relation to both kingdoms (Israel and Judah). Here, in verse 15, he indicates that he is returning to his place, perhaps to be understood figuratively as his lair, or lion’s den. I noted that describing God as an attacking lion was striking since the might of the Assyrian empire was often symbolized by a lion. In reality, it is God who is behind the troubles Israel and Judah are facing, Assyria is merely his instrument of punishment. Even more striking is the fact that elsewhere in the Bible, God is often referred to as the Shepherd of his People (e.g. Psalms 23:1-3; Ps 95:7; Ps 100:3; Micah 7:14), and, it was, of course, a shepherd’s duty to protect the flock from lions and other wild beasts (1 Sam 17:34; Acts 20:28-30). God, however, makes it clear that he will not protect his flock but will attack it through Assyria.

Thus God is not willing to intervene and save his people. Instead, like a sated lion he will return to his place (the temple, figuratively portrayed as his den or lair?). At this point the lion imagery begins to break down as the purpose of his lion-like action (attacking the flock) becomes clear. God wants his people to admit to their guilt (asham). Asham is a Hebrew verb meaning to be guilty. The noun form of the word is often used in cultic contexts and refers to the guilt offering (see Lev 5:6-7). To seek God is a technical term for approaching him in the temple for purpose of worship. God has brought distress upon the people for the purpose of bringing them to repentance and right worship

Hosea 6:1-3~
Douay-Rheims: Hos 6:1  In their affliction they will rise early to me: Come, and let us return to the Lord.
Hos 6:2  For he hath taken us, and he will heal us: he will strike, and he will cure us.
Hos 6:3  He will revive us after two days: on the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight. We shall know, and we shall follow on, that we may know the Lord. His going forth is prepared (established, certain, sure) as the morning light, and he will come to us as the early and the latter rain to the earth.

The people understand this fact (i.e., why God has brought distress upon them), but, amazingly do not really act upon it! God, through his prophet tells us the prayer they will offer, and it is a beautiful prayer indeed; but it is worthless.

The people talk about returning to the Lord, realizing that he has taken and struck them (like a lion), but that he will also heal and cure them. In other words, they show they know the purpose of the punishment, and they (seemingly) show trust in God’s mercy, acknowledging that a return to the Lord will lead to a quick response on his part (two days; three). His responding to them, they say, is as certain as the morning light, and as refreshing and life giving as the early and late rain. There is irony in all of this. The word which describes God as going forth like the morning light is ( מוצאו), and it often refers to the rising of the sun (see comments below).

Hosea 6:4-7~
Douy-Rheims: Hos 6:4  What shall I do to thee, O Ephraim? what shall I do to thee, O Juda? your mercy is as a morning cloud, and as the dew that goeth away in the morning.
Hos 6:5  For this reason have I hewed them by the prophets, I have slain them by the words of my mouth: and thy judgments shall go forth as the light.
Hos 6:6  For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice: and the knowledge of God more than holocausts.
Hos 6:7  But they, like Adam, have transgressed the covenant, there have they dealt treacherously against me.
But God sees through all their fine words and sentiments. They are not truly repentant, and they are not trusting in God’s mercy. Rather, they are trusting in their own presumptions about God. They described God’s merciful response as a going forth like the sun ( מוצאו) and being as certain as the morning light, but God describes their mercy as like a mere morning cloud which the rising of the sun burns off, for their mercy has no substance to it. They described God’s response in terms of a refreshing and life-giving spring rain, but they are nothing more than a light dew, soon evaporated by the rising sun.

God did come forth as lightin response to such “repentance”, but it was the light of judgment: For this reason have I hewed them by the prophets, I have slain them by the words of my mouth: and thy judgments shall go forth as the light.

This lack of mercy (hesed: covenant love, fidelity, loving kindness, etc) is why God has sent the people prophets with words and threats and promises of judgment.

Since they despised God’s gentler warnings and measures, He used severer.. He hewed them, He says, as men hew stones out of the quarry, and with hard blows and sharp instruments overcome the hardness of the stone which they have to work. Their piety and goodness were light and unsubstantial as a summer cloud; their stony hearts were harder than material stone. The stone takes the shape which man would give it; God hews these people* in vain; they* will not receive the image of God, for which and in which they were* framed.

“God, elsewhere also, likens the force and vehemence of his word to ‘a hammer which breaks the rock in pieces;’ ‘a sword which pierces even to the dividing of soul and spirit.’ He continually hammered, beat upon, disquieted them, and so vexed them (as they thought) even unto death, not allowing them to rest in their sins, not suffering them to enjoy themselves in them, but forcing them (as it were) to part with things which they loved as their lives and would as soon part with their souls as with them.” (E.B. Pusey, THE MINOR PROPHETS. public domain book. Italic texts marked with * represent amendments by me)

For I desired mercy and not sacrifice- This statement, much abused by certain scholars in the 19th century, is not a repudiation of sacrifice itself, but, rather, a repudiation of the belief that sacrifice can be done without being based upon covenant hesed (love, fidelity). Mercy takes precedent over ritual, sacrifice, devotion; these things should be based upon mercy, not trumping it: Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; because you tithe mint and anise and cummin and have left the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and faith. These things you ought to have done and not to leave those undone (Matt 23:23).

From the Catechism #2100~Outward sacrifice, to be genuine, must be the expression of spiritual sacrifice: “The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit….”(Ps 51:17) The prophets of the Old Covenant often denounced sacrifices that were not from the heart or not coupled with love of neighbor (Amos 5:21-25; Isa 1:10-20). Jesus recalls the words of the prophet Hosea: “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice” (Matt 9:13, Matt 12:7, Hos 6:6). The only perfect sacrifice is the one that Christ offered on the cross as a total offering to the Father’s love and for our salvation (Heb 9:13-14). By uniting ourselves with his sacrifice we can make our lives a sacrifice to God.

The word translated as I desired is  חפצתי, which means literally, I am inclined towards, or I bend down to. God responds as he sees fit, not as he is dictated to.

But at Adam they transgressed the covenant, there they dealt faithlessly with me- the Masoretic text reads “like Adam”. Some see this as a reference to Adam’s sin of eating the fruit in the garden, however, the words “there they dealt faithlessly with me”, suggests that “Adam” is to be understood as a place name, rather than as a person. Adam is a place name ( a city) associated with the crossing of the Jordan (Joshua 3:16). This crossing of the Jordan represented God’s fulfillment of his covenant promises. It also brought into force the covenant obligations the chosen people agreed to take upon themselves. Perhaps Hosea is not referring to one specific sin. Rather, he is implying that the people, from the very start of their existence in the promised land, were not faithful to these obligations.

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My Notes on Hosea 14:2-10

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 15, 2012

The verse numbering here follows that of the DRV and the RNAB. The RSV translation of Hosea is in some instances one verse behind in its numbering (supplied in red). References with no accompanying alternate in red indicates that the numbering of the two translations are identical. ALSO, letters following verse numbers indicate parts of a verse, e.g., 5:15ab designates the first and second clauses of verse 15 in chapter 5; 5:15c indicates the third clause, etc.

Hos 14:2 (1)  Return, O Israel, to the Lord thy God: for thou hast fallen down by thy iniquity.
Hos 14:3 (2)  Take with you words, and return to the Lord, and say to him: Take away all iniquity, and receive the good: and we will render the calves of our lips.

Verses 2-4 (1-3) are an appeal to the people by Hosea, speaking on behalf of God and calling for their repentance, a return of  Israel to the Lord. The prophet not only bids them to return,  but he also tells them what to say.  What follows in the remaining verses (5-10) [4-9] are the response God will presumably make to the people if they follow the course of action called for by the prophets. The whole passage should be seen in relation to Hosea 5:15-6:4.

In Hosea 5:15-6:4 (part of which is tomorrow’s first reading)  God states that he will withdraw from his people until they admit their guilt and return (5:15ab). But God is under no delusions regarding his people, he knows how they will act. They will speak (God says) a fine sounding prayer and insist that they are returning to their Lord (5:15c-6:3), but it is insincere (6:4). The people’s return in that passage is described without their referencing their iniquity/guilt, the very reason why God has withdrawn from them! (5:15ab). So, here, the prophet advises them to Take with you words, and return to the Lord, and say to him: Take away all iniquity.

Verse 4 (3) continued~And receive the good: and we will render the calves of our lips. After they ask God to take away all iniquity they are then to appeal to him to receive the good. I see the clauses in parallel: the good they ask God to receive is their acknowledgement of their iniquity (understanding take and receive as virtually synonymous). This will be followed by the people offering the calves of their lips (calves are for sacrifice, therefore, “the sacrifice of our lips,” i.e., praise, worship). In this way they will show that they have put away from them what they were declared guilty of, namely insincere conversion, a mere matter of words (6:1-4), and a reliance on false gods (see next verse). See also 7:13-14~they have spoken lies against me. And they have not cried to me with their heart

Hos 14:4 (3) Assyria shall not save us, we will not ride upon horses, neither will we say any more: The works of our hands are our gods: for thou wilt have mercy on the fatherless that is in thee.

The words of the people continue. Instead of trusting in their God who showed himself a father to them (11:1), they became fatherless, choosing to cater to Assyria to ensure their well-being (5:13, 8:9), and relying on the gods of Canaan (14:9, [14:8]), the works of their hands which became their gods (see also 8:6, 13:2) They will no longer seek Assyria’s aid or speak of these gods as belonging to them, because they have placed their lips at the sacrificial service of the True God (see previous verse).

Hos 14:5 (4)  I will heal their breaches, I will love them freely: for my wrath is turned away from them.

Here begins God’s beautiful response concerning what he will do if the people will do his bidding given through the prophet. God will heal their breaches (covenant breaking, sins against him). The words should be seen in relation to the statement that Assyria will not save us (verse 4 [3]). What Assyria couldn’t do, God will: Ephraim (i.e., Israel) went to the Assyrian, and sent to the avenging king: and he shall not be able to heal you (5:13).   God’s healing will be brought about only if the people truly repent, putting way their feigned piety which said:  Come, and let us return to the Lord. For he hath taken us, and he will heal us: he will strike, and he will cure us  (6:1-2 in DRV, 6:1 in RNAB, RSV). See 7:1 also.

My wrath is turned away from them. Their is a word play in the Hebrew text. The fact that God’s wrath is turned away (שׁב shûb) is the result of God his healing their breaches ( משׁובתם meshûbâh).

Hos 14:6 (5)  I will be as the dew, Israel shall spring as the lily, and his root shall shoot forth as that of Libanus.

I will be as dew. In 5:14 and 13:7-8 God had portrayed himself as a hunting lion (or bear) coming against his people, rending and tearing. In the insincere conversion prayer attributed to the people they are portrayed as praying:  “Come, let us return to the LORD; for he has torn, that he may heal us; he has stricken, and he will bind us up….he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth” (6:1, 3). The image of God as a lion or bear rending or tearing has become foreign; and the image of his coming as a gentle spring rained has been made even gentler: he will come and be as dew. If the people heed the prophet’s cal,l God will no more present himself as a destroying animal of punishment, but as a power of life and growth: Israel shall spring as the lily; and as something that gives strength and establishment: Israel’s root shall shoot forth as that of Libanus (a reference to the famed trees of Lebanon see Ps 92:13 [12]; Ps 104:16).

Hos 14:7 (6)  His branches shall spread, and his glory shall be as the olive tree: and his smell as that of Libanus.

The tree image continues in this and the next two verses. The spreading of branches indicates abundant life and vitality brought about by the dew that is God (see previous verse)

His glory shall be as the olive tree. God’s people (personified since verse 5b [6b] by “his“) are compared to an olive tree planted by God in Jeremiah 11:16-17, but there God is threatening to burn it because of the people’s idolatry. In Ps 52, the man with a deceitful tongue will be uprooted, while the righteous man is like an olive tree planted in the house of God.

And his smell as that of Libanus (Lebanon). The smell of Lebanon was proverbial due to the abundance of cedar, mulberry, fig and olive trees and, also, fragrant growth such as myrrh, thyme, lavender, sage, etc.  (see Song of Songs 4:11). Again, the image should be associated with the words of God I will be as the dew in the previous verse

Hos 14:8 (7)  They shall be converted that sit under his shadow: they shall live upon wheat, and they shall blossom as a vine: his memorial shall be as the wine of Libanus.

Israel, still personified (“his“) will-because of what God has done for them-become an instrument of conversion and of life for others (“they“).

They shall live upon wheatblossom as the vine. The conversion of the personified people will bring back life and abundance to the land, taken away because of their idolatry (2:10-14 [9-13]). Seeing this, others (“they“) will be moved to conversion and share in the abundance.

His memorial shall be as the wine of Libanus. Note the return to the personified people (“his“). The people’s conversion and its effect on others shall forever be a memorial, a well remembered as the fine wine of Lebanon.

Hos 14:9 (8) Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols? I will hear him, and I will make him flourish like a green fir tree: from me is thy fruit found.

Ephraim (i.e., Israel) will recognize that it was not their idols (fertility gods) who benefited them, giving their land abundance of grain, wine and oil (2:10 [9]).  When Israel does so it will flourish like a green fir tree, bearing fruit from God. Thus Israel itself will be sown in the land (i.e., returned from exile, 2:25 [23]). Again, the image of God as dew should be seen at work here

Hos 14:10 (9)  Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall know these things? for the ways of the Lord are right, and the just shall walk in them: but the transgressors shall fall in them.

Who is wise…? The necessity of wisdom for understanding the prophets message. Wisdom is bound up with acknowledging that the ways of the Lord are right, and walking in them. Here we see that prophecy is “an object of study and a guide to life” (Hosea: Anchor Bible Commentary, Andersen and Freedman).

SUGGESTED READINGS: These are not endorsements of the views and interpretations found in these works.

Minor Prophets: Navarre Bible Commentary. Theological faculty of the University of Navarre. A good, basic commentary, theological and devotional.

Amos, Hosea, Micah: Old Testament Mesage, vol. 7. By Father Bruce Vawter.

Conscience of Israel: Pre-exilic Prophets and Prophecy. Father Bruce Vawter. A bit dated but still a good introduction to the subject.

God’s Heralds: A guide to the Prophets of Israel. J. Chaine. Considered a good introduction when first published it is now rather outdated.

Grace Abounding: A Commentary on the Book of Hosea: International Theological Commentary. H.D. Beeby. Protestant. Series authorship is ecumenical in scope.

The Twelve Prophets, Vol. 1: Berit Olam: Studies in Hebrew Narrative and Poetry. Marvin A Sweeney. The Berit Olam series authorship is ecumenical in scope and Sweeney is (I think) Jewish. The first volume is on Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, and Jonah.

Hosea: A Commentary on the Book of Hosea: (Hermenia: A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible). Hans Wolff. The Hermenia series authorship is ecumenical in scope, the author is Lutheran.

Hosea: Anchor Yale Bible Commentaries. Francis L. Andersen and David Noel Freedman. The series authorship is ecumenical in scope. The authors of this volume are both Protestant.

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Video: The Philosophy of Jesus, an Interview with Peter Kreeft

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 17, 2009

An unfortunately short excerpt.

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Some Notes On The Marriage Of Hosea The Prophet

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 13, 2009

Preliminaries on the Marriage of Hosea and Gomer.

Bernhard Anderson writes: “The key to the interpretation of Hosea’s message is the story of his marriage to Gomer.  This story, however, which is found in the first three chapters of the book of Hosea, presents one of the most difficult problems in Old Testament studies.” (Understanding The Old Testament, pg 284).  Father Wilfred Harrington, O.P., writes along the same lines, noting that the foundational chapters of 1-3 provide “just enough data to establish one of the thorniest problems in the Old Testament” (Record Of Promise, pg. 183).  Father John McKenzie, in his Dictionary Of The Bible writes: “1-3, which contain the account of the marriage of Hosea and Gomer, raises a number of celebrated exegetical questions, and opinions are almost as numerous as the scholars who have discussed them” (art. “Hosea”).

Needless to say, we cannot here even begin to scratch the surface of the problems.  I would suggest reading the introduction to the Book of Hosea found in The New Catholic Commentary On Holy Scripture, which gives a good, succinct summary of some of the major views.  Also, Mckenzie’s Article on Hosea in his previously mentioned Dictionary.  One can also profitably consult pages 8-10 of this PDF document written by Duane A. Garrett of the Canadian Baptist Seminary.

Concerning III. A Garrett writes: “God commanded Hosea to marry an immoral woman.  He did so, and she gave him one son but soon returned to her old ways and bore him two children of doubtful paternity (1:2-9).  Hosea then apparently separated from her or was abandoned by her (2:2a).  She fell into poverty and disgrace, and eventually into slavery.  Hosea bought her out of slavery and restored he to the family (3:1-3).” (Please note that chapter and verse numberings for Hosea differ in various translations)

Concerning III. B Garrett writes: “Essentially the same as III. A., (of which it is) a variant interpretation (which) seeks to avoid the scandal of God commanding Hosea to marry a flagrantly immoral woman by asserting that the reference to Gomer’s immorality in 1:2 is proleptic, or that when he married her she had tendencies to immorality but had not yet actually engaged in extramarital sex, or that Hosea did not deliberately marry a wanton woman but only retrospectively realized that his unhappy marriage was actually, in the providence of God, a portrayal of God’s relationship to Israel.”

What’s my position?  I would point out that Hosea’s marriage is a prophetic mirror of God’s relation to Israel, something which very few commentators today (if there are any at all) would deny.  I would point out that the people whom God would “marry” were originally involved in idolatry in Egypt, and God freed them from this by leading them into the desert and “marrying” them, i.e., enter into a covenant with them.  I would note that in 2:16-17 Israel is portrayed as a wife who had originally been faithful in the desert.  I would also point out that God could not have been ignorant of the fact that his wife Israel would fall into harlotry.  When God set before His people the blessings and the curses of the covenant (Deut 11:26-32; 28:1-45), He knew full well that both would befall Israel: “WHEN ALL THESE THINGS which I have set before you, the blessings AND THE CURSES, ARE FULFILLED IN YOU…” (Deut 30:1).  From this I would conclude the following (I should note I’m relying on others for all of this):

1. Hosea is being asked to undergo in a marriage the experience God knowingly underwent in His covenant relations with His people.  Any discussion of the status of Gomer must (so it seems to me) take into account the history of the covenant, which necessarily begins with the people living in idolatry in Egypt.

2.  God knowingly took a harlot (idolatrous) people into a marriage (covenant), and Hosea is being asked to knowingly take a sexually promiscuous woman as a wife (1:2).

3.  The harlot “wife” of God responded with fidelity, at least for a time, as did the harlot wife of Hosea (note that the prophet is clearly identified as the father of Gomer’s first child 1:3).

4. Just as God’s “wife” fell into idolatry (often compared in the Bible to sexual infidelity), so too would the prophets wife (note the paternity of the second and third child of Gomer is not mentioned.  This ambiguity implies what becomes explicit in their names: “Not Pitied” and “Not My People” [1:6, 8]).

5. As a result of her covenant infidelity there is a rupture in the “marriage” between God and His “wife”; just as there is a rupture in Hosea’s marriage.  See chapter 2:1-8 where the actions of Gomer and the symbolic names of the last two children are applied to God’s relation with His “wife” (the nation of Israel which has un-covenanted itself), and her children, the product of her harlotry (covenant infidelity).

6. This rupture (divorce?) is intended as medicinal.  God/Hosea (the symbol and reality are becoming merged) no longer supports the wife and she will come to find that her lovers are now of little use to her, and so she will return to her husband (2:9-25)

7. For this reason God commands Hosea to take back his wife and submit her to a period of testing, as he will do with Israel (chapter 3).

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Hosea 9:10-13

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 9, 2008

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Hosea 9:10 I found Israel like grapes in the desert, I saw their fathers like the first fruits of the fig tree. The reference to “first fruits” a “grapes” shows that the prophet still has the theme of the harvest feast of Tabernacles in mind (see previous post). The feast of Tabernacles was dedicated to God and celebrated the fall harvest in recognition that the fruits of the land-and indeed, the land itself-were gifts from God. However, the people had perverted this celebration with Baalism. Baal was a fertility god who was worshiped with sexual rites. In performing these rites the devotees believed that baal would send down the rain, conceived of as his seed (sperm) and impregnate the land, making it fertile. For more on Baal see my comments on Hosea 1:2 here. For more on Tabernacles see my comments on Hosea 9:1-9; especially those on verse 1.

Finding grapes in the desert and the coming of the first fruits of the fig tree are things to take great joy in; and joy was one of the hallmarks of the Tabernacles feast. God, in describing Israel in this fashion is witnessing to their initial devotion to Him, a theme already alluded to in the second half of Hosea 2:17. God once took delight in his people, as the farmer delights in and celebrates the first fruits of the harvest, but they went in to Beelphegor (i.e., Baal-Peor) and alienated themselves to that confusion, and became abominable, as those things were, which they loved.

In Numbers 25:1-18 we read of the crime of Baal-Peor and its aftermath. At the time of the Feast of Tabernacles the people would reflect upon the events in the desert, especially recalling the various rebellions narrated in Exodus 16-17; 32-34; Numbers 11-25. The events at Baal-Peor are, as it were, the capstone upon these rebellions.

They alienated themselves to that confusion. The text reads literally: “They consecrated themselves to shame. Consecration is a cultic word meaning “set apart.” The idea was that Israel was to be consecrated, set apart from all that was profane, instead, they set (alienated) themselves apart from God by the rites of Baal, who is here described as “shame.” This word is used to describe Baal in Jeremiah 3:24; 11:13. As a result of this “consecration,” the people became “abominable,” like “those things were, which they loved.” The term translated here as “abominable” is shiqquwts, which is pronounced shik-kuts, an obvious word-play on the Hebrew word for Taernacles: Sukkuth. The term “abominable is often employed in reference to idols (Deut 29:16; Isaiah 66:3).

Hosea 9:11 As for Ephraim, their glory hath flown away like a bird from birth, and from the womb, and from conception. See the NAB and RSV translations offered in the pop-up box. Ephraim was the largest of the tribes of the northern kingdom and is, as here, often used to refer to the entire kingdom. Children are described here as “glory,” but it is a glory that has (or will) fled away from the people. The irony is obvious: having participated in pagan fertility rites the people of God will become infertile (see the covenant curses in Deut 28:18).

Hosea 9:12 And though they should bring up their children, I will make them without children among men. This could be taken two ways: (1) the childlessness threatened in the previous verse will effect the people’s existing children (i.e., their children will have no children), or, (2) the children will begin to die off. The NAB translation supports #1, while the RSV supports #2.

Yea, and woe to them, when I shall depart from them. The flying away of the glory of children will be the result of God’s departure from the people. One of the hallmarks of the feast of Tabernacles is that it celebrated God’s presence with the people. This presence was manifested by God’s glory (Exodus 33:18; 1 Kings 8:11). The departure of that glory/presence was a sign of disfavor. See Ezekiel chapters 10 and 11 where the departure of God’s glory from Jerusalem signifies the impending doom of the city (avoid the NAB translation here).

Hosea 9:13 The Douay-Rheims (like the NAB) is translating the Hebrew text of this verse. For a translation of the Greek see the RSV. The nation, once as beautiful and prosperous as Tyre, will suffer defeat at the hands of an enemy (“the murderer”). Tyre was an island nation devoted to the worship of Baal, and it naturally attributed its fortunes to this devotion. King Ahab (Achab) of Israel was married to Jezebel (Jezabel), a Tyrian who supported the cult of Baal in Israel with disastrous consequences

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Notes on Hosea 9:1-9

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 2, 2008

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Hosea 9:1 Rejoice not, O Israel: rejoice not as the nations do. The reference to the cornfloor (threshingfloor) in this verse, along with the reference to wine in verse 2, and “They shall not dwell in the Lord’s land” in verse 3, indicates that the prophet has in mind the feast of Sukkoth (also called Feast of Ingathering, or Booths, or Tabernacles. See Ex 23:16; Deut 16:13-15; ). This was a harvest festival which was closely connected to the remembrance of the desert wanderings and the gift of the promised land. It was to be a time of thanksgiving, joy, and merrymaking. According to Deut 26:1-11, a person was to bring a basket of items harvested to the place where God chose to dwell (Jerusalem) and give it to the priest while stating: `I declare this day to the LORD your God that I have come into the land which the LORD swore to our fathers to give us.’ The priest was to take the basket and place it before the altar, at which point the offerer was to recite the following: `A wandering Aramean was my father (i.e. Abraham); and he went down into Egypt and sojourned there, few in number; and there he became a nation, great, mighty, and populous. 6 And the Egyptians treated us harshly, and afflicted us, and laid upon us hard bondage. 7 Then we cried to the LORD the God of our fathers, and the LORD heard our voice, and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression; 8 and the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror, with signs and wonders; 9 and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. 10 And behold, now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground, which thou, O LORD, hast given me.’

Note the close connection between the wandering and exile status of the people in times past, and the current possession of the land.

The Israelites are told to rejoice not as the nations do because they have been unfaithful to God, loving a harlot’s hire upon every threshing floor. Pagan harvest celebrations, especially those connected to the fertility god Baal, took place at threshing floors as a matter of convenience, for it was at such places that the grain was separated from the stalks. They also took place at wine presses as well (vs 2). The rites often involved sexual practices. By engaging in such rites on the pretext of celebrating the feast of Tabernacles, the people were committing harlotry against the covenant with God, which was often portrayed in term of marriage. Covenant infidelity thus came to be compared to marital infidelity, an important aspect of this book (see Hosea 2:1-25).

Hosea 9:2 The (threshing) floor and the winpress shall not feed them, and the wine shall deceive them. Recalls the threats in chapter 2. God will take away the land’s abundance as a sign that He-not the Baals-is responsible for the fruitful harvest.

The wine shall deceive them. “Deceive” could also be translated as “fail”; many think this is a better translation (but see Hosea 4:10-11; Isaiah 5:11-12). An abundance of wine was a sign of God’s favor (Deut 7:13; Hosea :10; Proverbs 3:7-12). Lack of wine was a sign of God’s displeasure (Deut 28:30, 39; Hosea 2:11; Amos 5:11).

Hosea 9:3 They shall not dwell in the Lord’s land. Once again the threat of exile looms (see Hosea 7:12, 16; 8:13).

Ephraim is returned to Egypt, and hath eaten unclean things among the Assyrians. The RSV reads: “But Ephraim shall return to Egypt, and they shall eat unclean food in Assyria.” Is and hath in the DR version reflects the tenses used in both the Hebrew and Greek versions of the prophet, however, often in the prophets tenses denoting existing (i.e., is) or accomplished (i.e., hath, has) facts are used of future realities, emphasizing that what is being promised, threatened, or stated will in fact occur. Such a meaning is brought out by the RSV, NAB, and other translations. “Ephraim shall return to Egypt” does not mean that Israel will be exiled there. Egypt, because of the Hebrew’s experience of bondage to the Egyptians and their god’s, became a metaphor for bondage to any pagan nation and its gods. Assyria will become the new Egypt, a new place of bondage for Israel.

Note that the threat of exile and the eating of unclean food indicates a reversal of what the Feast of Tabernacles celebrated.

Hosea 9:4 They shall not offer wine to the Lord. Libations of wine were a prominent ritual during Tabernacles. The people were engaging in the worship of God as a mere pretext, but even this pretext will be taken away.

Their sacrifices shall be like the bread of mourners. The joy of the Feast of Tabernacles will come to an end because the people have perverted it. This is a reference to the pagan practice of offering bread to the dead (see Deut 26:14). In an Exile situation all sacrificial meat would become unclean.

All that eat thereof shall be polluted: for their bread for their soul shall not come into the house of the Lord. The DR translation used here is over-literal, and does not take account of the various meanings of the Hebrew nephesh., or its Greek equivalent. The RSV reads: “For their bread shall be for their hunger only; it shall not come into the house of the Lord.” The NAB reads: Such food as they have shall be for themselves; it cannot enter the house of the Lord.” Since nephesh can mean “life”, the text is probably meant to indicate that the food the people eat will be of benefit only for their temporal well-being (“for themselves”, “for their hunger only”). It can and will have no sacrificial value and cannot enter the house (temple) of God, which the people would be separated from anyways, in the event of exile.

Hosea 8:5 Even if they desire to celebrate the feast correctly, in exile there will be no opportunity to do so.

Hosea 9:6 They are gone because of destruction (Note the present tense; see note on vs 3) refers to the people no longer being in the promised land, unable to go to the temple of Jerusalem for the proper worship of God on the feast. This will surely come about because Egypt shall gather them together, Memphis shall bury them. As already noted, Egypt is a symbolic reference to exile. Memphis was a leading city of Egypt. In the prophet’s mind, Egypt is a symbol of Assyria where the people will die in exile.

Nettles shall inherit their precious silver, the bur shall be in their tabernacles. In Hosea 2:8 we read that God had given the people their silver, but they attributed it to the Baals. In Hosea 8:4 we read that with the silver they made idols. This pagan paraphernalia will be left behind when they go into exile (see Isaiah 2:18-20). The Garden land flowing with milk and honey (Exodus 3:8) will become a wasteland, overgrown by weeds. Inherit represents the Hebrew word yarash, which can also mean “take possession” or “impoverish.” The last possibility is, I think, the best. The idols of the fertility gods who were thought to give the land its fruitful abundance will be impoverished by worthless growth. Their nothingness will then be seen. The tabernacles where the people once dwelt to celebrate the feast of Tabernacles (which they perverted) will become overgrown with thorns. The fact that thorns will dwell in the tabernacles (i.e., dwellings) where the people were to dwell in thanksgiving for the inheritance of the garden land and its produce is highly ironic. Reflected in this passage is the disobedience of Adam (Gen 3:17-19, 23).

Hosea 9:7 The days of visitation…the days of repaying are come. God is about to manifest his judgment against the people.

Know ye, O Israel, that the prophet was foolish…for the multitude of thy iniquity, and the multitude of thy madness. Intense sarcasm. In Hosea 4:5-6 the prophets were condemned for willfully rejecting knowledge of God and His law. The people were in fact not unaware of this: “The prophet was foolish, the spiritual man was mad, FOR the multitude of thy iniquity, and the multitude of thy madness.” It appears that the prophets had succumbed to the will of the people, telling them what they wanted to hear, rather than what they needed to hear (Concerning the northern kingdom’s rejection of prophecy see Amos 2:12; Amos 7:10-17).

Hosea 9:8 The watchman of Ephraim (i.e., the prophets to the northern kingdom of Israel), was with my God (once faithful), but now: the prophet is become a snare of ruin upon all his (Ephraim’s) ways. Madness is in the house of his God. “House” here refers to the northern kingdom rather than to the temple in Jerusalem. Madness means insanity, here understood as a willful rejection of the knowledge of God. The word could also be translated as hatred. It should be noted that many modern translations and commentators amend this rather difficult verse so that it reads as a rejection of the prophets by the people.

Hosea 9:9 Gabaa in the DR version means Gibeah, the birthplace of Saul, the first King of the chosen people (1 Sam 10:17-26); he was also a prophet (1 Sam 10:9-13) and proved to be a stinker at both. He usurped the priestly/prophetic function of Samuel and, as a consequence, lost any chance of maintaining his kingship or establishing a dynasty (1 Sam 10:8, 13:8-14). He fell into insanity which manifested itself in hatred against David (1 Sam 18:6-16). The reference to Gabaa (Gibeah) suggests Hosea’s dissatisfaction with the prophets and monarchs of the northern kingdom. Gibeah was also the place of a heinous sexual crime in judges 19:22-28. The events instigated there culminated in the event at Shiloh, where women were kidnapped to become wives. This took place during the Feast of Tabernacles (Judges 21:15-25). This last passage ends with the words “In those days their was no king in Israel; everyone did what he thought best.” The implication is that a worthy monarch could have avoided the happening of such events. All in all, the reference to Gabaa (Gibeah) show the prophet’s abhorrence of the incompetence of the prophetic and royal powers in the north.

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Notes on Hosea 8:5-14

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 1, 2008

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    Hosea 8:5 Here begins the Prophets account of the Lord’s speech to Israel. The NAB reads “Cast away your calf, O Samaria!” This is a possible rendering, but the text could also be taken as “He (i.e., God) has rejected your calf, O Samaria!” ” Either way it is apparent that the false worship in Samaria is going to take another beating. However one chooses to translate the Hebrew zanahti here, a clear link is provided with verse 3 which spoke of the Israelites having “rejected” or “thrown away” (Hebrew: zanah) that which was good for them (the right worship of God).

    The calf of Samaria. According to 1 Kings 12:26-33, Jeroboam, son of Nebat (i.e., Jeroboam the first, 922-901 BC), established cultic shrines (temples) at Dan and Bethel. There is little biblical evidence for there being a cultic center in the city of Samaria, though it should be noted that Samaria did not become the capitol of the northern kingdom until the reign of Omri, some fifty years after the time of Jeroboam. It would be highly unusual for a captiol to be without such a center. It should also be noted that a nations capitol is often named as a synonym for the whole nation; in such a case, “the calf of Samaria” could refer to all the shrines of false worship in the northern kingdom. In Hosea 10:5 the people of Samaria are said to fear for the calf of Beth-aven, a pejorative term for the cultic center at Bethel.

    My wrath is kindled against them. What follows gives some of the reasons for God’s anger.

    How long will the be incapable of being cleansed? This is certainly a reference to their insincere conversion and false piety (see Hosea 6:1-10).

    Hosea 8:6 For itself is an invention of Israel. This is probably meant to convey the idea that the falseness of the calf idol is an invention, unreal, like their piety and conversion.

    A workman mad it, and it is no god. No doubt meant to recall the prohibition against idols (Exodus 20:4-5; Deut 5:8-10). Man made idols were often ridiculed by the wise men and prophets of God (Wisdom 10:13-19; Isaiah 44:9-20).

    The calf of Samaria shall be turned into spider’s webs. Other translations read “shall be broken in pieces,” or “shall go up in flames.” I suspect the last possibility is the most likely, since it links nicely with the statement that God’s wrath is kindled in verse 5.

    Hosea 8:7 Idols are as empty and transitory as the wind, and one reaps what one sows. The wind image highlights the “vacuous nature” of idolatry (Marvin Sweeney). According to the book of Deuteronomy, the people were ensured of abundant and fruitful harvests if they maintained a right relationship with God under terms of His covenant (Deut 28:4). Failure to do this would bring crop failure (Deut 28:15-18, 38-44). Part of the problem in Israel was that its false worship of the true God-bad enough in itself- was often synchronized with worship of Baal, a fertility God who was though to make the land fruitful (Hosea 2:5). In order to prove that it was not the Baal’s who made the land fruitful God promised to show his power over the land (Hosea 2:6-13).

    If it should yield, stranger will eat it. See Deut 28:29-33. Note especially verse 33 of the text.

    Hosea 8:8 Israel is swallowed up… among the nations. Those who thought they consumed the fruits of the promised land by the power of the Baal’s will be swallowed up by idolatrous nations. The previous verse threatened despoilment of crops by their enemies, this build upon that with an obvious play on words: “Strangers will eat it…Israel is swallowed up…among the nations.”

    Like an unclean vessel. “Vessel” is a term often used for paraphernalia employed in religious observances. Often times, a defeated nation’s temples were pillaged and the objects used in worship were taken to the victor nation’s shrines for display or use in the worship of their gods.

    Note: Exile is clearly being threatened here (especially verse 7), but the prophet has a more immediate concern; notice that the wording of verse 8 is present, not future: “Israel is swallowed up.” The immediate concern is with the foreign alliances Israel has made with pagan nations. Such alliances entailed the invoking of these nations gods and will lead to the punishment of exile.

    Hosea 8:9-10 Israel is “swallowed up” even now because of its political alliance with Assyria. Yahweh (God) should have been its so lover, however, like a senseless jackass the nation has wandered to other nations (and their gods). Like a harlot it has sought out other lovers (recall the marriage motif in chapters 1-3).

    The text of verse 10 is highly problematic and variously translated and interpreted. Gathering could refer to the bringing of the people back from exile (Micah 2:12); but it is also used for the gathering of the people’s lovers (pagan nations) for the purpose of punishment (Ezek 16:37). They shall rest a while from the burden of kings and princes could mean that the people would be given relief from bad rulers. The meaning then could be: “I will gather the people to myself (i.e., lead them to conversion) to avoid their exile; and will do away with their rulers.” If this is the sense, then what is being alluded to here is probably the reunification of the northern kingdom of Israel with the Davidic kingdom of Judah.

    However, the word behind the translation “they shall rest” can have sexual connotations. “They shall rest a while from the burden of kings and princes” could also be translated as: “They are profaned a little from sexual relations with kings…” The meaning of the verse then might be: They have hired themselves out as a harlot to the nations, so I will gather them together for judgment, for they have profaned themselves with foreign kings and princes.”

    Hosea 8:11 Multiplication of altars was forbidden by Deut 12:4-14.

    Hosea 8:12-13 The rendering of verse 12 by the NAB and the RSV is too be preferred to that of the DR translation. The Law of God has been considered something foreign by his people who have chosen foreign gods. Because of this, God has no regard for their sacrifice and will lead the people into exile. In verse 9 the people were said to”go up to Assyria,” as a result, they will now “return to Egypt.” This should not be construed as an actual exile in Egypt, rather, Egypt is the symbol of slavery and servitude to foreigners. The Israelites were already in that situation voluntarily by their alliance with Egypt; the prophet is here suggesting that it would turn worse, and the people would experience something similar to the bondage in Egypt.

    Hosea 8:14 The focus of most of the criticism in Hosea is against Israel, but Judah is occasionally critiqued as well. Israel forgot its maker and built many temples. Judah has fortified many citites; the law forbid both the multiplication of temples and militarism. Israel, it would seem, was putting its trust in false gods; whereas Judah was putting its trust in martial arms.

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